The ex-covert CIA operations officer whose outing led to a George W Bush administration scandal has turned into an author, speaker, and commentator. She left CAA and today signed with Hollywood talent and literary agency UTA, which will represent Plame Wilson in multiple areas of entertainment and media, including motion pictures, television and endorsements. Plame Wilson will also continue to be represented by New York-based publishing agent Elyse Cheney of Elyse Cheney Literary Associates LLC and media lawyer David B. Smallman of Smallman Law PLLC. Plame Wilson is the author of the New York Times best-seller autobiography Fair Game, which was made into a film. She is currently co-authoring a series of international espionage thrillers with acclaimed mystery writer Sarah Lovett. The first book will be published in 2012 by Penguin.
In a tough blow for the brick and mortar bookstores coming out of the holidays and heading into the new year, Borders has acknowledged that it delayed payments to vendors. In a statement released yesterday to PublishersMarketplace.com, Borders claimed restructuring its vendor financing was part of an ongoing potential refinancing of its existing credit facilities. Without such a move, the company faces a liquidity shortfall. The Wall Street Journal reports that the retailer doesn’t know it new funding will materialize and it is unclear whether publishers will be understanding enough to send fresh product. Borders and rival Barnes & Noble have been weathering a worsening storm of customers opting for online shopping and e-books, trading the charm of browsing bookshelves for discounted wares…
Former New York Times reporter Judith Miller’s landing at conservative site Newsmax is causing a bit of a stir. Miller, who also contributes to the conservative-leaning Fox News, will always be known for controversy over whether her pre-Iraq invasion reports about possible weapons of mass destruction was used by the Bush Administration build momentum toward the subsequent invasion. She also spent 85 days in jail after refusing to disclose that Scooter Libby, the former aide to vice president Dick Cheney, had disclosed to her that Valerie Plame was in the CIA. Miller recently used her experience on that topic to debunk the Plame pic Fair Game in an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal, calling the film well acted, but a “gross distortion of a complicated political saga.” Firing back in an essay for Columbia Journalism Review, Liman wrote: “Judith Miller demonstrated in her recent WSJ story about my film, Fair Game, the same cavalier attitude towards the facts that led to her departure from The New York Times in disgrace. And we should never forget that Scooter Libby outed Valerie Plame to Miller in June 2003—more than two weeks before Richard Armitage outed Plame to Novak. Somehow Miller neglected to mention that in her op-ed piece. But she also forgot about that before—in her early grand jury testimony—until she was forced to come clean about it in a subsequent grand jury appearance and under oath at Libby’s trial. Miller’s belated testimony helped convict her “source” Libby, but not until she did everything she could, as a forceful proponent of the war in Iraq, to avoid telling the truth to the American public. And so here we go again.” Moviegoers didn’t seem to care much about the controversy, based on ticket sales. The $22 million budget Fair Game grossed less then $10 million domestic, and less than $19 million worldwide…
The producers of Spider-Man Turn Off The Dark have officially acknowledged that Natalie Mendoza is leaving her role of Arachne,
SUNDAY AM: First weekend I’ve slept past 8 AM in what feels like forever. But this is Hollywood’s lone box office break for big movies before the end of the year, and the 2nd slowest grossing weekend of the year (since the Fri-Sat-Sun post-Thanksgiving is usually a turkey). But a lot of specialty films had their debuts or expansions including Fox Searchlight’s drama Black Swan from Darren Aronofsky starring Natalie Portman (18 theaters in 8 cities — NY, LA, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Dallas, Toronto). It had Friday’s best per screen average with $23,660, and the studio knew it was overperforming when Friday’s matinees were double the per screen average of Aronfsky’s previous The Wrestler. Black Swan grossed $1.3M with a gross per theater average of $77,459, setting an all-time record for Fox Searchlight. (More than Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, Sideways, and Little Miss Sunshine all of which were in fewer theatres.) The drama also is the 2nd highest opening of a limited release for 2010, passing The Kids Are All Right and now only behind The King’s Speech.
Also for Fox Searchlight, there is Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours with James Franco (433 theaters for a gross per screen average of $3,695), The King’s Speech from The Weinstein Co (6 theaters) with another terrific gross per screen average of $54,312. Roadside Attraction release I Love You, Phillip Morris starring Jim Carrey scored $18,886 gross a screen in 6 theaters for its opening. “Considering the behemoth that is Black Swan, who took away a nice chunk of our hipster, gay and specialty audience, we think we came through with shining colors,” a Roadside exec tells me. Roadside and its partner on the release, Liddell Entertainment, are spending a fraction of what, say Fox Searchlight or The Weinstein Co is spending. Magnolia’s drama thriller All Good Things (2 theaters), directed by Andrew Jarecki, debuted with a gross per screen average at NYC’s Paris and Angelica of $20K. But the movie has already made millions on VOD and is on its way to becoming Magnolia’s most successful on that platform. “There is a giant section of America that doesn’t have access to these types of films,” said a Magnolia rep. “The VOD/Theatrical model is alive and very well and these numbers proves that clearly. Many wonder how VOD will affect theatrical – this opening shows that it can lead to success for both. The VOD acts as a sneak and word of mouth tool and theatrical numbers reflect that.”
The good news is that the marketplace expanded for all of these films because the adult audience still feels underserved. Also in theaters are Summit Entertainment’s Fair Game (436 theaters), and Waiting for ‘Superman’ from Paramount Vantage [85 theaters]. Most are platforming for awards season, but none are cracked the Top 10 this weekend. Fair Game added screens but still came in behind Black Swan which looks to gross a phenomenal $300K for Friday, so figure about $1 million for the weekend. On the other hand, the expansion of 127 Hours still can’t get it to hang with the big boys.
As for the major studios, only Rogue/Relativity’s martial arts western The Warrior’s Way stealth-opened semi-wide in 1,622 theaters. I never saw a single trailer or TV ad for it anywhere. No matter: it’s a bomb with the production budget at $42 million and independently financed thanks to international superstar Dong-gun Jang. It was distributed in the U.S. as a rent-a-system deal by Relativity. With a CinemaScore of “C-”, the studio claimed today, “The opening results, while modest, didn’t fall far below expectations as the campaign and spend were very targeted.” According to exit polls, 35%/65% were under/over age 25, with 65% of moviegoers male. But it was a very diverse audience with 27% Asian, 23% African-American, 20% Caucasian and 20% Latino. Among holdovers, this weekend should have seen even steeper drops since a week ago was the day after Thanksgiving and the biggest moviegoing day of the year. But 3 of the 4 opening pics badly underperformed. Disney’s Tangled finally surged past Warner Bros’ Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows which continues to dominate the overseas marketplace, grossing an estimated $54.4M in 62 territories for an international cume to date of now $469.1M and a global cume of $713.3M. Disney’s 50th animated toon took in $26M this weekend from 15 territories representing 35% of the international market. With Tangled now hitting a domestic cume of $96.5M and overseas total of $45.8M, the new global cume is $142.3M:
1. Tangled (Disney) Week 2 [3,603 Theaters]
Friday $5.1M, Saturday $9.9M, Weekend $21.5M (-56%), Cume $96.5M
2. Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows (Warner Bros) Week 3 [4,125 Theaters]
Friday $4.8M, Saturday $7.4M, Weekend $16.7M, Cume $244.2M
Passing the giant Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps billboard at the Pico Blvd entrance to 20th Century Fox, I noticed the words “Academy Award” prominently mentioned no less than five times. Academy Award Winner Michael Douglas. Academy Award Nominee Josh Brolin. Academy Award Winner Susan Sarandon. Academy Award Nominee Frank Langella. Academy Award Nominee Carey Mulligan. Not so subtly, making an early bid like this to find any way to associate the Academy Awards and an opening movie this time of year can be a smart marketing strategy. It’s a way to establish a new film as a contender amid the endless glut of generally still-sight-unseen Oscar wannabes.
With that in mind, I continue my rundown of award hopefuls. I started last week with an assessment of Oscar chances for the films that had just appeared at any or all of the three Fall Film Festivals in Venice, Telluride, and Toronto. I began that list with Friday’s New York Film Festival opener The Social Network. Now comes, in order of scheduled release date, the trickier proposition of forecasting the awards status of films that weren’t unveiled at a Fall Fest but will be opening before the end of the year:
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS (Twentieth Century Fox – 9/24) On paper, with its timely theme, this is exactly the kind of popular drama with an Oscar-heavy cast and director that the 10 Best Picture nominations would tend to favor. Well-received in Cannes last May, it still hasn’t generated the kind of serious buzz which fall fest entries like Social Network, The King’s Speech, and Black Swan all managed. Oscar Chance: Bearish, since sequels rarely compete and Oliver Stone’s 1987 original received just a single nomination — and won Best Actor for Michael Douglas. His bigger-than-life Gekko remains its best chance to jump in the race, particularly with goodwill for the actor running high due to his cancer and memories of his acclaimed work in the indie Solitary Man still fresh from earlier this year. Never-nominated Eli Wallach, 95, might have had a shot for his small but indelible role. But he’s already getting an Honorary Oscar in November.
NOWHERE BOY (The Weinstein Co – 10/8) This story of the young John Lennon opened last Christmas in England and has already hit British Airways and Blu-ray but is craftily timed for U.S. release the day before what would have been the musician’s 70th birthday. Oscar Chance: Both female co-stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Anne-Marie Duff were BAFTA nominees last season and might have a long shot in the Supporting Actress category if Weinstein does any sort of serious campaign for this.
SECRETARIAT (Walt Disney Pictures – 10/8) This emotion stirring crowd-pleasing story of the 1973 Triple Crown winner and the woman who wouldn’t give up on him could appeal to the same feel-good contingent that made The Blind Side such a player last year. Oscar Chance: Diane Lane and John Malkovich could figure in acting races. While sound, cinematography, music, and Best Picture nominations are not out of the question. If 2003’s Seabiscuit, which landed 7 nominations including the big one back when there were only five slots, could do it, then it should be a breeze for this horse. But Disney has to campaign just as aggressively as Universal did back then.
COMPANY MEN (The Weinstein Co – 10/22) There hasn’t been a whole lot of buzz on this John Wells written and directed title since it debuted to mixed reviews in Sundance. But this of-the-moment drama about the effect of corporate downsizing on three men has a strong cast that includes past Oscar winners Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. Oscar Chance: A longshot that needs to step up its awards game or risk downsizing to also-ran status against stiff competition.
WELCOME TO THE RILEYS (Samuel Goldwyn – 10/29) Fine acting from James Gandolfini, Melissa Leo, and Kristen Stewart highlight this drama about the effect that a young runaway has on a married couple. Oscar Chance: This quiet and effective drama was a Sundance success. But it’s likely to be more prominent at the Spirits than the Oscars.
FAIR GAME (Summit – 11/5) The hot button Valerie Plame/CIA leak story gets the cinematic treatment from director Doug Liman. It played well to critics in competition at Cannes in May but has been dormant on the Fall Festival circuit. Oscar Chance: It has two stars, Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who are usually Academy bait. But so far neither is generating much heat in the highly competitive lead actor and actress races. Perhaps that will change when the film gets its second shot at glory just after election day. Of course, Penn already has a couple of Oscars.
FOR COLORED GIRLS (Lionsgate – 11/5) Except for the trailer, no one’s really yet seen this Tyler Perry adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s 1975 play with the longer title For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When The Rainbow Is Enuf. But apparently Lionsgate has enuf confidence to push the release right up to the start date of the film industry’s official holiday movie season. Oscar Chance: Perry’s a cash cow for Lionsgate but he’s got no Oscar cred yet except for an AMPAS membership card. Last year, this distributor scored 6 nominations and 2 Oscars with Precious (which Perry supported by lending his name). But can lightning strike twice?
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (Warner Bros – 11/19) The mega-box office Harry Potter series begins its wrap party with the first of a 2-part finale. Oscar Chance: These films are usually good for one or two technical nods but haven’t broken through into the marquee categories. If Harry has any shot at pulling a Lord Of The Rings-style victory lap, it’s probably with the more emotionally potent Part 2 which gets a July release.
THE NEXT THREE DAYS (Lionsgate – 11/19) Oscar-winner Paul Haggis co-wrote and directed this thriller about the turmoil in a couple’s life after the wife is accused of murder. Russell Crowe, Liam Neeson, and Elizabeth Banks star. Oscar Chance: Although Haggis and Lionsgate last struck Oscar gold together with Crash, this one is said to be a strictly commercial bet with no similar awards trajectory.
Summit Entertainment has released a trailer on Fair Game, the Doug Liman-directed film that stars Naomi Watts as outed CIA operative Valerie Plame and Sean Penn playing her husband, Joseph Wilson. The film debuted at the Cannes Film Festival
Summit has scheduled director Doug Liman’s Fair Game starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts for a limited run starting November 5th, expanding on November 12th, and again on November 19th. The studio also slotted Timur Bekmambetov’s The Darkest Hour 3-D for August 5th, 2011 from director Chris Gorak starring Emile Hirsch.