Oscar-Buzzed ‘12 Years A Slave’ In Top Ten, ‘Jackass: Bad Grandpa’ Opens #1 For $32M, All-Star ‘The Counselor’ Bombs With $8M
SUNDAY AM, 4TH UPDATE: The most interesting news of the weekend, at least to me, is that New Regency’s financed and produced Best Picture Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight is only playing in 123 theaters (up from 19 last weekend) yet jumped into the Top Ten. Propelled by critical raves, it’s in 8th place despite Steve McQueen’s unvarnished depiction of mankind’s brutality from John Ridley’s screenplay based on the book by Solomon Northup. The per screen average is $17,400 for a new cume of $3.4M. There still is tremendous curiosity in Hollywood as to this pre-Civil War drama’s box office potential after it opened last weekend with an ‘A’ CinemaScore and an impressive $50,000 per screen averager. Studio says it’s playing well in art houses, African American theaters, as well as in mainstream multiplexes in markets LA, NY, Atlanta, Wash DC, Chicago, Toronto, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit. Next week it adds 45 new cities and will increase theater count to over 400 locations across North America. Stellar cast includes Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodward, and of course Brad Pitt who’s also starring in one of this month’s worst box office bombs. (See below).
Are there really going to be 86-year-old Irving Zismans (aka Johnny Knoxville in 8 hours worth of industrial-strength makeup) at Halloween parties this weekend? This fourth moronic Jackass movie was outselling R-rated comedies like We’re The Millers and This Is The End at the same point in their online pre-sales cycles. So it was no surprise that Thursday 9 PM late shows and Friday midnight screenings grossed a gigantic $1.4 million and then went into Friday’s $12.6M opening total for Paramount/MTV Films’ Jackass: Bad Grandpa (3,336 theaters). Saturday’s take was down only -5% for $11.5M and a $32M weekend from 3,336 theaters. Hollywood knows never to underestimate the taste of American moviegoers which gave the comedy a ‘B’ CinemaScore. So this crapfest came in an easy #1. “Not bad for a film that cost $15M,” a studio exec tells me. It’s apparently now the 3rd best R-rated comedy opener of the year demonstrating this 2000 MTV-origin franchise isn’t played out. But this gross is far less than 2010′s Jackass 3-D opening weekend of $50.4M.
But internationally Bad Grandpa opened as the highest-grossing release in the Jackass franchise. It was let loose day and date this weekend in the UK and Germany and a number of smaller markets and grossed a healthy $8.1M from 1,014 locations in 16 territories. That’s 3X bigger than the second Jackass opening for the same group of markets and on a par with Jackass 3D despite the fact that Bad Grandpa is a 2D release and a spin-off rather than a straight sequel. In terms of admissions, there were +20% more than for Jackass 3D. The UK delivered $3.2M from 371 sites for the biggest opening for the Jackass franchise. And Knoxville’s geezer scored a big $3.1M from 285 cinemas for the #1 launch as the biggest opening for the Jackass franchise in the market. Other releasing territories: Netherlands $474K at 63 locations, Austria $410K in 50 cinemas, Finland $164K from 69 locations. Australia releases on November 14th.
Zisman’s character previously only perturbed passerbys in brief hidden-camera punk’ds. Here director Jeff Tremaine ages up Knoxville who travels with his grandson to some pretty decent reviews. (Hey, not my problem if critics want to lose more brain matter.) The marketplace was ripe for a raw comedy and Paramount marketed to frat houses around the country. The trailer launched in August on We’re The Millers and TV ads had heavy play on sports channels. At MTV’s VMAs, Knoxville as Zisman and his grandson did shtick then custom vignettes for Spike TV and Comedy Central showed the geezer screening the film at the Playboy mansion with bunnies.
Warner Bros’ Gravity fell from atop the domestic box office for 3 straight weeks to #2 and a still amazing $20.3M weekend and nearly $200M domestic cume through Sunday. In #3 is the Paul Greengrass/Tom Hanks adult drama Captain Phillips entering its 4rd weekend for Sony Pictures with an $11.8M weekend for a new cume of $70M through Sunday.
Twentieth Century Fox’s Ridley Scott vanity project The Counselor (3,044 theaters) only opened #4 to a meager $8M weekend. Studio claims the cost was only $25M. Good thing because audiences gave the derivative drug thriller a dreaded ‘D’ CinemaScore despite a standout cast of Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Cameron Diaz in No Country For Old Men author Cormac McCarthy’s first screenplay. Not much reason to talk about the film’s marketing or creative plan since Fox ran off the top execs running both departments in recent days. So why did this turkey get made? “Tom Rothman did it for Ridley because he’d made so much money for the studio with Prometheus,” an insider tells me. “But even people who’ve seen it can’t figure out what it’s about.” Ouch! Exit polling showed that the audience was 49%/51% male-female, with 85% aged 25+ and 15% aged 25 or under. “Some good grosses in the big city, core runs where audiences are more likely to be receptive to challenging, provocative filmmaking,” a Fox exec Sunday. “We’re extremely proud of our filmmaker Ridley Scott as well as our phenomenal cast who all came together to make this film for a very reasonable price. We opened in a few international territories this weekend so the end result for our modestly budgeted film is far from being known at this time. But suspect we will be in good shape financially at the end of the day.”
Overall the weekend is $100M, or +15% from last year. Here’s the Top Ten list:
Yet another Halloween-themed video, this time from the WME Motion Picture Department. It’s called ‘The Pitching Hour’ and I spent 5:47 minutes of my vacation watching it. I want that time back.
Twentieth Century Fox International films set another milestone this weekend for what it boasted was an unprecedented 5 straight years and 7 overall – both industry records. Its 2013 overseas theatrical grosses passed the $2 billion box …
Halloween Horror: ‘Carrie’ Falls Flat After ‘Gravity’ Wins 3rd Weekend And #1 Global, ‘Escape Plan’ Trapped, ‘Fifth Estate’ Flops
Technical problems delayed box office updates.
SUNDAY NOON, 5TH UPDATE: First the good news: Warner Bros’ Gravity continued to defy the laws of box office playing in the widest release of 3,820 theaters. The only question mark was whether the Alfonso Cuaron/Sandra Bullock 3D space drama could orbit #1 for its 3rd straight domestic weekend despite a trio of newcomers in the marketplace. But none of the openers could muster strong openings or even 50% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. So no surprise Fandango reported that Gravity was pre-selling more tickets this weekend than most movies do at opening. (Remember: the studio mogul Jeff Robinov responsible for this yowza was forced out.) Its $31M weekend led a fresh $170.5M cume. Internationally pic has earned $114.2M from 51 territories for a new worldwide cume through Sunday of $284.7M and #1.
True to life or not (and many say not), Sony Pictures’ Paul Greengrass/Tom Hanks sea pirates drama Captain Phillips holds in 3,020 theaters for a healthy -33% and #2 with a new 10-day cume of $53.3M. Grosses rose a stunning 45% from Friday to Saturday. Overseas pic’s total is $9.1M from just 18 territories for a new worldwide cume of $62.3M.
But the Halloween horror is how Sony’s Screen Gems’ and MGM’s completely unnecessary Carrie remake fell flat on its bloody face. It couldn’t scare up $20M even as the only horror movie opening this October. Audiences gave it a ‘B-’ CinemaScore which hurt word of mouth. Weekend opening in 3,157 theaters was a disappointing $17M. Pic at first levitated $725K in Thursday late shows and Friday midnights and seemed promising based on matinee trends. Especially considering it was made for what the studios claim is $30M but also marketed with a full frills TV spend. Brian De Palma’s 1976 United Artists adaptation of the Stephen King classic novel has spawned a 1999 sequel and a 2002 made-for-TV movie and now this movie directed by Kimberly Peirce and starring Chloe Moretz and Julianne Moore. But it’s an R-rated teen drama masquerading as a horror film and didn’t satisfy either Saw fans wanting gore or Paranormal Activity addicts seeking supernatural thrills. Both those genre pics have dominated the pre-Halloween box office since 2004. But Paramount decided to delay PA5 from this month to October 2014. Carrie was no substitute. Opening weekend exit polling showed the audience was 46% male and 54% female. with 56% under age 25 and 44% at 25 and older.
Lionsgate/Summit’s been there and done that Escape Plan (opening in 2,883 theaters) paired Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the kind of film their fans used to flock to. Um, those fans have vanished now that both action heroes are more likely to break a hip than open a movie. (Even Letterman joked it’s ‘Escape From Assisted Living’.) “Fans didn’t turn out for them individually in Last Stand or Bullet In The Head,” one exec points out. “Now audiences are rejecting them together.” Opening at #4 for only a $9.5M weekend, its ‘B+’ CinemaScore helped word of mouth. Directed by Mikael Håfström with screenplay and story by Miles Chapman with credited scripter Arnell Jesko, movie cost around $50 million because it was shot in Louisiana where there are hefty tax incentives. Summit claims limited financial exposure because it had many international presales and licensings and because Emmett/Furla was in for about 1/3 of the budget. Exit polling showed audience was 55% male vs. 45% female with 61% over age 30 and 39% under 30. Overseas, the duo earned $14.1M day and date from 25 territories for a worldwide cume of $23.9M.
Placing #7 is DreamWorks Studios’ The Fifth Estate flopping worse than forecast with only a $1.7M weekend even factoring its low 1,769 theater count. The per screen average was under $1,000, meaning each location played nearly empty. No wonder this hyperbolic melodrama earned only a ‘B-’ CinemaScore. Its multiple trailers and high-spend TV ads were as misguided as WikiLeaker Julian Assange played by Benedict Cumberbatch who deserved better than director Bill Condon. (He helmed among the worst reviewed installments of the Twilight series.) Pic has now earned $2M internationally for a $3.3M worldwide cume, including $1.4M in the UK where Assange is holed up inside London’s Ecuadorian embassy which has granted him diplomatic asylum. This should have been an HBO flock, which DreamWorks realizes now. With the exception of The Help and Steven Spielberg’s Oscar bait Lincoln, DreamWorks CEO Stacey Snider just keeps presiding over disappointing openings like I Am Number Four, Cowboys & Aliens, Fright Night, Real Steel, Spielberg’s own War Horse, and now this. Given how small the studio’s annual output is, you’d think Snider could stop whining about financing long enough to oversee better product.
Not only does Assange hate the movie but he plotted to steal the tell-all manuscript being penned by his former second-in-command Daniel Domscheit-Berg which became one of the two books that formed the basis of The Fifth Estate film. Josh Singer (Fringe, The West Wing) adapted. But Condon claims credit for broadening the film’s scope to a “multiplicity of perspectives” ascribed to real-life and representative figures involved which is what critics panned as the weakest part of the pic. The project began shortly after DreamWorks acquired the rights to Domscheit-Berg’s Inside WikiLeaks: My Time With Julian Assange At the World’s Most Dangerous Website. And then producers Michael Sugar and Steve Golin of Anonymous Content took the book to Singer who pitched the studio. “You could make several movies out of this material,” Singer has said, “but we had to choose one, and ultimately, the story of Daniel’s journey with Julian was the most relatable.” Cumberbatch donned prosthetic makeup, colored contacts, bleached eyebrows, and Assange’s signature white hair, as well as intensive vocal work to capture Assange’s particular way of speaking. He reached out directly to Assange and established an email connection. Assange asked Cumberbatch not to do the role. The WikiLeaker was right.
Finishing in 16th place, Fox Searchlight/New Regency’s Oscar frontrunner 12 Years A Slave platformed in 6 markets for a total of 19 theaters. There was tremendous curiosity in Hollywood as to its box office potential because pre-sales showed the strongest per-screen opening of the weekend before it opens wide November 1. Director Steve McQueen’s pre-U.S. Civil War drama grossed $960K for an impressive per screen average of over $50,000 a theater. Written by John Ridley based on the book by Solomon Northup) the film features a stellar cast including Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Paul Giamatti, Sarah Paulson, and Alfre Woodward. Financed and produced by New Regency, pic is being marketed and distributed by Fox Searchlight to a satisfied audience of mostly cinephiles and African-Americans for an ‘A’ CinemaScore. Next weekend adds 6 cities and expands theater count to about 125.
#1 ‘Gravity’ Defies Hanks With $200M Global: ‘Captain Phillips’ $26M Domestic For Tom’s Best In 5 Years, ‘Machete Kills’ Only $3.7M
SUNDAY 11 AM, 6TH UPDATE: Warner Bros‘ hit holdover Gravity had outstanding international holds in all key markets of 38 territories now in release, dropping only 27%. The cume now stands at $68M and the worldwide total at almost $200M. Upcoming are openings in Brazil, Korea, Mexico, France, Britain, Japan, and presumably China. Pic’s IMAX gross is the highest second weekend non‐holiday hold (‐21%) for a film opening over $55M, and the biggest second weekend non‐holiday hold (‐21%) for over 2,000 locations this year. It’s also now IMAX’S highest-grossing second weekend ever, besting previous records for films released in summer and holiday. This, even after 45 IMAX locations shifted to playing Sony Pictures’ Captain Phillips. This weekend wound up with very strong grosses for the Top 3 domestic movies - but not much left for the other pics through Columbus Day Monday. So total moviegoing looks like $120M, or -10% from last year.
Gravity expanded into 3,660 North American theaters and is still in such strong orbit that it’s running rings around other adult newcomers. After making $12.6M Friday and rising to $18.4M Saturday, the space drama finished with a $44.2M second weekend (-21% from a week ago). That’s a $123.4M cume through Sunday thanks to an 82% 3D ratio. ”It doesn’t get much better than that. The demise of 3D in the domestic marketplace was totally premature,” a Warner Bros exec tells me. ”Of all the people polled this week, over 6% had already seen Gravitytwice. Great legs and awards to follow.” Thanks to those repeat viewings and astounding VFX and great word-of-mouth, this Oscar-buzzed original thriller grossed IMAX domestic cume of $26.5M with a global cume $33.3M. Good thing IMAX reserved the entire month of October to play this film. Other markets still to open, include Japan, Mexico, the Middle East, and the UK. Pic also is on track for one of the year’s top second weekend sales on Fandango. (First is Iron Man 3.) According to Fandango and MovieTickets.com, Alfonso Cuaron’s space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney accounted for 47%-48% of all online tickets sold from Thursday to Friday. Meanwhile, Gravity‘s global grosses could rocket near $175M in its first 10 days of release. Let’s not forget it was then Warner Bros Pictures chief Jeff Robinov who took this now Oscar-buzzed script out of turnaround at Universal after Cuaron and his reps asked for it back when David Linde left. (Despite this and other successes, Robinov was pushed out the door. Only in Hollywood, folks.)
Sony/Columbia Pictures’ real-life sea pirates saga Captain Phillips jumped +23% from Friday to Saturday. In solid 2nd place, this latest Tom Hanks starrer earned a rare ‘A’ CinemaScore from audiences and obviously helped word of mouth after opening in 3,020 theaters. Friday’s take was $8.5M, Saturday’s $10.4M, nearing a $26M first weekend. But who thought we’d see the day when the Captain Phillips poster wouldn’t even feature Hanks’ face? Now this is one of Hanks’ biggest live-action fllms in what has been a long list of recent flops at the box office. (His last hit was Sony’s 2009 Angels & Demons and debuted to $46.2M.) This Paul Greengrass directed PG-13 drama from a screenplay by Billy Ray is based on the book “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALS, And Dangerous Days at Sea” by the real-life captain Richard Phillips. It set sail with $600K from Thursday late shows and Friday midnights buoyed by strong reviews (94% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes). Producers included Dana Brunetti, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin. Fandango saw sales jump from 15% to 33% Thursday to Friday, prompting a Sony exec to predict: ”Plenty of juice left at the box office this weekend for Captain Phillips on the strength of fantastic notices.” Studio claims the film cost about $55M. Opening weekend demos for the film showed the audience was 52% male and 48% female. and 38% was under 35 while 62% over 35. Captain Phillips debuted at the New York Film Festival and Britain’s BFI London Film Festival to great acclaim – including a NYFF standing ovation during the gala premiere with Hanks and Greengrass and Phillips on the Red Carpet. Naturally, the media questioned the pic’s accuracy depicting that 2009 hijacking off the Somali coast. In fact a 3-year-old lawsuit is still going on questioning the ship’s owner for putting the crew in danger. (“The movie tells a highly fictionalized version of what actually happened,” one lawyer tells ABC News. So what else is new? Hollywood rarely gets true stories right.) This only matters if controversy obscures the awards buzz for a Best Picture Oscar nod or Hanks another Best Acting Oscar nomination 13 years after his last win. Marketing focused on adults who like to leave theaters thinking about a film’s issues.
Bullock-Clooney-Cuaron’s $55M ‘Gravity’ Domestic Weekend Soars To October Record And Big $27.4M Internationally; ‘Runner Runner’ Flops $7.8M
SUNDAY 9 AM, 7TH UPDATE: Warner Bros’ Gravity is big overseas, too. The 3D and IMAX space drama opened day and date in 27 markets and generated a big $27.4 million with 2.8M admissions from roughly 4,763 screens. The studio says the 3D showing ”exceeded all expectations” and generated 70% of the grosses. Foreign grosses include Russia $8.1M, Germany $3.8M, Australia $3.2M, Italy $2.6M, Spain $2.3M, Taiwan $958K. Upcoming markets include Brazil (Oct. 11), Korea (Oct. 17), Mexico (Oct. 18), France (Oct. 23), UK (Nov. 8), Japan (Dec. 13).
The big get bigger despite an otherwise soft domestic weekend. Total moviegoing is $115M (-20% down from last year) with 2/3s of it coming from just the Top Two films both in 3D: newcomer Gravity and holdover Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2. Alfonso Cuaron’s premium-priced space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is looking at a record-setting $55.5M weekend for what execs tell me is the largest October opening weekend of all time. Other records include the largest IMAX opening in October, largest openings ever for Bullock and Clooney, and 2nd largest for Cuaron. Good thing then Warner Bros Pictures chief Jeff Robinov took this script out of turnaround at Universal after Cuaron and his reps asked for it back when David Linde left. After all, Cuaron really freshened WB’s Harry Potter franchise with the Prisoner Of Azkaban. This Oscar-buzzed original thriller scripted by Cuaron with his son Jonas about astronauts with its dazzling VFX earned an impressive ’A-’ CinemaScore from audiences. So the studio is predicting it’ll have long legs. Pic did $17.5M Friday (including $1.4M for Thursday 10 PM late shows and Friday midnights), then bumped up +35% to $23.5M Saturday in what is a traditionally slow time at the domestic box office which has been lagging of late. ”Would create a new window for a tentpole release,” Warner Bros Domestic Distribution czar Dan Fellman predicted Friday – and proved correct. Two of the studio’s previous Best Picture Oscar winners — The Departed (2006) and last year’s winner Argo — opened on the exact same weekend. Gravity already has the same awards buzz. With runs in 3,575 locations, it’s also important to note that a whopping 3,150 of those are premium 3D and did $44.2M and 323 IMAX which did $34.7M. It would be too simplistic to say that the enthusiastic reviews for Gravity were solely responsible for the 1.4% uptick in IMAX shares Friday morning — ending this week’s startling 10% drop. But the film took in $420,000 from 323 IMAX theaters in late shows so poised to provide a “noticeable jolt” to investor expectations, according to Wall Street analysts. Lots of debate over the budget of this pic ranging from $80M to $120M.
British producer David Heyman of eight Harry Potter films fame brought Cuaron aboard for Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban, but, this time around, it was Cuaron who asked Heyman to get involved on Gravity and produce it with him. Cuaron’s idea to take the spacecraft and flip it (because it was coming in top-up) took 10 weeks – one shot, two minutes, $100K. Film went from Comic-Con to all three big fall festivals – Venice, Telluride and Toronto – where it became one of the best reviewed films of 2013. Critics relished the rarity of a female-driven action movie where one character is alone for a lot of the time. As Deadline’s awards columnist Pete Hammond predicted this week, ”This bodes well for Warners’ upcoming Oscar campaign. One studio source said they expect at least 10 nominations including Best Picture, Actress, Director and of course across the board in below-the-line areas where the film is the odds-on favorite to actually win.” The marketing strategy was to ”harness the visceral, intense, terrifying, beautiful, breathless experience of the film,” Warner Bros told me. ”We leveraged the breakthrough visuals, the director’s pedigree, and the standout performances.” The TV, print, and online campaign launched theatrically in May with the 3D teaser trailer on the studio’s The Great Gatsby. In lieu of one main trailer, studio’s President of Worldwide Marketing Sue Kroll decided on 3 different ‘movie moment’ pieces playing with Wolverine. A final trailer further developed Bullock’s character with the ‘Don’t let go’ tagline and launched in September. An experiential website was built featuring a spacewalk of the Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and the Tiangong Space Station.
Saturday was huge for #2 Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2 from Sony Pictures, up 112% from Friday, and aided by sneaks of the studio’s Tom Hanks-starring true life thriller Captain Phillips. Toon ended with $21.5M with a strong -37% hold and new $60.5M cume. “The 800 sneaks of Captain Phillips look to be at least 75% of capacity with sell-outs reported in every major city,” Sony tells me. Looks good for Sony and Hanks who both need another hit.
In #3, Twentieth Century Fox/New Regency’s Ben Affleck and Justin Timberlake starring thriller Runner Runner grossed just $2.8M Friday (including $200K for late shows before opening in 3,024 theaters) and +13% for $3.1M. Studio didn’t expect more than a meager $10M-$12M for the weekend but now that estimate has flatlined to $7.8M. Brad Furman directed this flop about the less-than-riveting realm of offshore online gaming that earned a dismal ‘C’ CinemaScore from audiences (who couldn’t get into Gravity?). Also, can we just declare Justin box office poison and be done with him? New Regency financed and produced the drama for what it claims is under $30M, knowing that domestic would underwhelm but international could be solid. Fox says that overseas the outcome is better: $23.6M gross. Pic still has 30 markets internationally to release, including Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Holland. Runner Runner was produced by Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Davisson Killoran, Michael Shamberg, Stacey Sher, as well as its scripters Brian Koppelman & David Levien.
Few filmmakers are more disliked than M. Night Shyamalan for squandering opportunity after opportunity in what was once a successful career. Or for his limitless ego. It’s now led to his new book, I Got Schooled: The Unlikely Story of How a Moonlighting Movie Maker Learned the Five Keys to Closing America’s Education …
FRIDAY 7 AM UPDATE: Turns out nobody on The Deadline Team wants to tackle box office this weekend or any weekend. I certainly don’t blame them because it’s a thankless job. Now I’m stuck doing it on vacation through the end of this year. Glad to provide yet more hilarity for your continuing pleasure. (What’s next: a DH sitcom?)
THURSDAY 5 PM: Ask the people who calculate or cover box office regularly what they want the most, and they’ll tell you it’s to get up late on weekend mornings and get to bed early on weekend nights. We’re all sleep-deprived. I’ve been taking some banked vacation in recent weeks while still reporting and analyzing the grosses. But now I intend to take what I consider a well-deserved break from box office until the new year when my contractual obligations start again. Please don’t beat up my temporary replacements as badly as you’ve bruised me over the years. And yes, start betting that I won’t manage more than a week or two away from box office. I love how it can be so unpredictable – especially these days when tracking is meaningless. I started including box office reports on Deadline Hollywood with the goal of doing it differently. In those days, every new release was a ‘boffo hit’ in the trades. I sought to inject more truth into the analysis. I’m still in disbelief how my coverage back then and even now can cause instant dismay and certain dispute and at least debate. In fact I’m positive there’ll be a big sigh of relief around Hollywood when my byline on box office disappears for a while. Even I was surprised by this edited excerpt from the start of a 2011 Fast Company article about Disney’s film biz:
It was prime time, the main event, the first punch of a one-two summer combo — Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides and then Cars 2 – that would shape the studio’s financial fate for the year. The Pirates 4 indicators were particularly discouraging. Disney executives were counting on big revenue from 3-D screens, but ticket sales in the U.S. for such films had been flagging all spring. The reviews had not been pretty… During the afternoon of Friday, May 20, and well into the night, Disney executives emailed [then Walt Disney Studios chairman Rich] Ross and one another with the latest box-office data and anecdotal evidence. The big question on their minds was this: How would media reporters spin the opening-weekend numbers? And more specifically, what was Nikki Finke going to say on Deadline Hollywood? The most influential — and, to studio executives, terrifying — entertainment reporter in town, Finke would set the tone with the initial report on her website. As the results filtered in, Ross and his team wondered if Finke would cackle over the film’s failure to crack the magic $100 million mark in the United States.