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OSCAR MOGULS: Ryan Kavanaugh Q&A

The Deadline Team of Nikki Finke, Pete Hammond, and Mike Fleming have spent recent days interviewing the studio moguls to gauge their perspective on this very close Oscar race:

7 Nominations: 7 The Fighter

DEADLINE’s Nikki Finke: How did you first get involved with The Fighter?
RYAN KAVANAUGH: Mark Wahlberg brought us the project. It was developed at Paramount by David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman and they put Mark on the project. Everybody knows there were a lot of starts and stops. When Paramount told them, ‘We’re not making the movie,’ Mark called us because we had a prior relationship with him. Effectively, the script that Paramount had developed was very dark. So we said to Mark, ‘Look, it can be a modern-day Rocky. The good news is we love the story. The bad news is we need to pay someone to rewrite it.’ Mark and David O. Russell had worked together on Three Kings and we had actually met with David a few times on other movies. So we brought David in and in a very short period we had a shooting schedule. He was not contractually given any writing credit. It went to Scott Silver. But at the end of the day David was really responsible for 90 percent of the rewrite. The budget was $50 million, and we gave him a budget of $25 million. Then, we shot the movie in 33 days. And here we … Read More »

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‘Tron: Legacy 3D’ Opens With $43.6M For Disney; ‘How Do You Know’ Expensive Flop For Sony; ‘Yogi Bear 3D’ Underperforms; 2010 Year-To-Date Crosses $10 Billion Mark

SATURDAY PM/SUNDAY AM UPDATE: If everybody like me is getting on or off a plane, then who’s at the movies this weekend? This is why, between shopping and partying and travelling, the last full weekend before Christmas is traditionally a lousy time for North American grosses. “They’re not rushing out to see movies. What you tend to forget, going into this weekend, is that the pool of people who are available, and don’t have a lot of commitments on their time in terms of parties and presents and vacations, is small,” a studio mogul explains to me. Meanwhile, Paul Dergarabedian is reporting that 2010 year-to-date revenues crossed the $10 billion mark this weekend, only the 2nd time in Hollywood history that this mark has been surpassed in domestic revenue. With only 12 days left in the box office year, he says it’s possible for record revenues beating last year’s $10.6 billion. But it’s because of higher ticket prices: attendance is likely 4% down from 2009’s full year total.

Here’s the Top 10:

1. Tron: Legacy 3D (Disney) NEW [3,451 Theaters]
Friday $18M, Saturday $14.9M, Weekend $43.6M, Intl $23M, Global $66.6M

Sequels 28 years after the original rarely happen in Hollywood. Yet this was exactly the sort of movie to benefit during the pre-Christmas rush because of the obvious fanboy interest, helped by the fact that every young male is out of school and can indulge his cultural need to see films like this first. So Hollywood and even Disney had been expecting a weekend of at least $50M. “Depends how good it is,” one rival studio exec snarked. The movie’s domestic grosses fell short. Remember that Friday’s number included $3.6M from midnight screenings, so Saturday’s take didn’t increase — not a good sign. With a budget estimated as $150M, and a global marketing push estimated at another $120M, Tron: Legacy 3D had a ton of pre-sales domestically but will have to depend on international overperforming. Globally, Tron 2 opened in 26 international markets (Australia, Brazil, Japan, Scandinavia, Spain, UK, etc.) representing about 50% of the marketplace. Overseas, Tron took in $23M for a worldwide total now of $66.6M.

Disney had arranged for “Tron Night” at 520 theaters in 40 countries, with premiere events in Tokyo, London, Los Angeles and Berlin (in January 2011). Not only did Tron 2 open the Tokyo International Film Festival, but key buildings in Osaka, Nagoya, and Yokohama were covered in blue Tron lights, while in Toronto the CN Tower was similarly lit up. Disney’s consumer products division came onboard. The studio even used its newly purchased Marvel to push the pic: a 2-issue comic book limited series, “Tron: Betrayal” grqaphic novel was sold under the Tron name. Meanwhile, the film’s soundtrack from Walt Disney Records produced by the Grammy Award-winning French duo Daft Punk hit #1 on Amazon, became iTunes single of the week, and debuted at #10 on the Billboard Top 200 — the first score soundtrack to debut in the Top 10 in five years.Nice, but that didn’t put moviegoers in seats…

2. Yogi Bear 3D (Warner Bros) NEW [3,515 Theaters]
Friday $4.7M, Saturday $7.1M, Weekend $16.7M

Not much good to say when Hollywood thought the bear could muster domestic grosses between $20M and $25M. Nope. The kiddie matinee bump for Yogi Bear was +52% on Saturday. Let’s see how it does over the holiday. But I pity the poor parent who has to sit through this Jellystone Park mind-dumber, even with the nostalgia factor. Especially considering the higher 3D ticket prices.

3. Narnia/Dawn Treader 3D (Walden/Fox) Week 2 [3,555 Theaters]
Friday $3.5M, Saturday $5.1M, Weekend $12.4M (-48%), Cume $42.7M

4. The Fighter (Relativity/Paramount) Week 2 [2,503 Theaters]
Friday $3.9M, Saturday $4.8M, Weekend $12.2M, Cume $12.6M

Paramount gushed what a “great start” this expansion is for their blue collar Oscar contender. “We should have great word of mouth and play to a great multiple,” an exec tells me because of The Fighter‘s high 88% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and “A-” CinemaScore and mere $25M budget. The studio’s adult-targeted Christmas release last year, Up In The Air, did $11.3M in wider release and went on to gross $83M domestically. Exit polls shows The Fighter played to a very balanced audience, 47% male, 53% female, with its R rating obviously playing  older, 87% were over age 25. “Adult movies in the window play to very high multiples, 6 to 8 times this weekend,” a Paramount exec tells me. “With these exits and reviews, it’s on a great path. Just in case you haven’t heard it already, here’s the backstory: Paramount had been developing this film with producers David Hoberman and Mark Wahlberg for several years. The moment he learned nearly 5 years ago that he’d be starring in the movie — alongside Matt Damon for then anointed director Darren Aronofsky — Wahlberg built a boxing ring his backyard, hired two trainers on his own dime, and trained hours each day to hone his skills. Wahlberg never stopped training, not when Damon dropped out and Brad Pitt came in, not when Aronofsky dropped out, Pitt left, and the project was nearly knocked out. Then Relativity Media came in and agreed to finance and produce the film. Director David O Russell was brought in and deals were restuctured to get the budget down to $25 million. Paramount retained the option to keep domestic rights, which the studio elected to do once it screened the final film.

5. The Tourist (GK Films/Sony) Week 2 [2,756 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.5M, Weekend $8.7M (-47%), Cume $30.7M

6. Tangled 3D (Disney) Week 4 [3,201 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.8M, Weekend $8.6M, Cume $129.7M

Not only does Disney’s Tangled look to overtake DreamWorks Animation’s Megamind ($142M) before the end of the year, but the Rapunzel retelling has now made $97.8M abroad for a worldwide cume of $225.6M. 

7. Black Swan (Fox Searchlight) Week 3 [959 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $3.2M, Weekend $8.3M, Cume $15.7M

Terrific gross for the first wide expansion on this Oscar-touted film pre-holiday time. Black Swan will expand again on December 22 to approximately 500 additional theatres.

8. How Do You Know (Sony) NEW [2,483 Theaters]
Friday $2.5M, Saturday $2.9M, Weekend $7.6M

Sony Pictures all week had been warning me about how little Jim Brooks’ movies make. The problem is that none of his films have been this expensive. Brooks’ highest grossing opening as a director was $12.6 million for As Good As It Gets, in part because Jack Nicholson was the lead. At first Sony hoped to come close to that for a solid multiple since this is a season where these films leg out. Not this expensive flop. Today, even Sony admitted this was a “disappointing start”. Tracking stayed awful right up until the movie opened Friday well behind Black Swan which was expanding into almost 1,000 screens this weekend and scoring twice How Do You Know‘s first-choice numbers for women. As for mutiples, they’re dependent on good word of mouth which this bomb never had. Without that, anything less than $15M this weekend was a giant headache for Sony given what I’m told is How Do You Know‘s $120 million budget — no kidding, and for a comedy — while a weekend under $10M represents a $50 million writeoff for Sony. That’s because Brooks kept to his usual long, long schedule, shooting a ton of footage, all while Jack Nicholson and Owen Wilson and Paul Rudd and Reese Witherspoon were getting paid full freight. Brooks wrote this pic for and around Witherspoon, then he indulged in uber-expensive reshoots as the studio and the writer/director tried to make Reese’s unlikeable character more appealing. But Black Swan, in the words of one studio rival, was “a better alternative” at the box office for women. Ouch! Opening weekend exits showed the audience was 60% female and 55% over 30 years old. Sony has had another great year at the domestic box office, but it’ll try to sever its longtime connection with Jim Brooks after this.

9. Harry Potter/Deathly Hallows, Pt 1 (Warner Bros) Week 5 [2,860 Theaters]
Friday $1.5M, Saturday $2M, Weekend $4.8M, Cume $265.5M

10. Unstoppable (Fox) Week 6 [1,876 Theaters]
Friday $550K, Saturday $810K, Weekend $1.8M, Cume $77.3M

Specialty Films:
The King’s Speech (Weinstein Co) Week 4 [43 Theaters] Weekend $1M, Cume $2.9M
127 Hours (Fox Searchlight) Week 7 [307 theaters] Weekend $520K, Cume $9.2M
The Tempest (Miramax/Touchstone) Week 2 [21 Theaters] Weekend $53K, Cume $117K
Rabbit Hole (Lionsgate) NEW [5 Theaters] Weekend $55K

FRIDAY AM: Disney now says Tron Legacy 3D Read More »

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OSCAR: Is ‘The Fighter’ A Heavyweight?

Pete Hammond

It has been common wisdom as this awards race moves into full gallop that Best Picture Oscar may come down to The Social Network and The King’s Speech. But, after this week, I believe we may be adding a new heavyweight contender if mounting buzz is any indication. Academy members who are starting to see Paramount/Relativity’s The Fighter, particularly after Monday  night’s premiere, are starting to talk in ways that make Oscar consultants for rival films nervous.  “It’s a great movie, it really is,” one major writer/director told me last night. An exec close to the film’s campaign says the studios are starting to hear this a lot and points out one director branch member who came up after the film and told her, “I think I’ve just seen the Best Picture of the year.”  This exec says , “I know I should be drinking coffee but I am starting to drink my own Kool Aid. I think this thing is really starting to take off.”

At the premiere, stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale came on the Chinese Theatre stage after closing credits to introduce the real life inspirations for the film, Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, and the venue erupted into a big standing ovation. The exec estimates there were about 200 Academy members in attendance which helps make up for the disappointingly low turnout at last Saturday night’s “official” Academy screening. DVD screeners sent to various awards organizations arrived  in the mail on Wednesday.

Now this morning I’ve also exclusively  learned that the Palm Springs International Film Festival … Read More »

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OSCAR Q&A: Mark Wahlberg On ‘The Fighter’

Mike Fleming

In this year’s wide-open Oscar race, many of the contenders are films that traveled long and hard roads just to get made. By that measure, few put in more work than Mark Wahlberg did for The Fighter, the David O. Russell-directed drama in which he plays Irish Micky Ward, the welterweight who fought his way to an unlikely world championship. Christian Bale lost 30 pounds to play half-brother crack addict Dicky Eklund, but Wahlberg’s commitment was even more dramatic. The moment he learned nearly 5 years ago that he’d be starring in the movie alongside Matt Damon for director Darren Aronofsky, Wahlberg built a boxing ring his backyard, hired two trainers on his own dime, and trained hours each day to hone his skills. Wahlberg never stopped training, not when Damon dropped out and Brad Pitt came in, not when Aronofsky dropped out, Pitt left, and the project was nearly knocked out. Wahlberg joined David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman as producer so, when the project was on the ropes, Wahlberg helped rework the picture from a $50M studio film into a scrappy $20M indie:

Deadline New York Editor & Film Editor Mike Fleming: Micky and Dicky were the pride of Lowell, Massachusetts. You came out of Dorchester. How far away were you from these guys and how aware were you of their story?
Mark Wahlberg: Lowell was 30 minutes away from Dorchester, we were on different sides of Boston. Lowell is more like a suburb, but not a rich one. These guys were big time legends. Dicky is older than me, he fought Sugar Ray Leonard in the 70s, so I wasn’t as aware of him as I was Micky, who was considered a superhero where I came from. I knew Dicky was supposed to be the great fighter but that he had his battles with drugs and I’d seen the documentary High On Crack Street. They filmed that in Lowell, about Dicky, and called it the biggest crack town in America.

DH: How did you become involved?
Wahlberg: I wanted to make a boxing movie, talked about a movie where I’d play Vinnie Curto and Bob De Niro would play his trainer, Angelo Dundee. I tried to make The Black Dahlia with Brian De Palma because there was an element of boxing in it. I’d already built a ring in my backyard by then. I first met Micky when I was 18 years old, and was a huge fan. I thought, this is the movie I should make. John Herzfeld and I want to Lowell to see Micky and Dicky and talk about the possibility. We found they’d already sold the rights 10 times over and it had become such a cluster fuck that it seemed there was no way we’d be able to sort it out. Then, five years ago, Brad Weston called me, said he had a script to send me. It’s about Irish Micky Ward, the boxer, he said. Do you know him? I was blown away by the script, and thought, we’re getting this done. I started training the day I got back from vacation. That’s how this whole thing began. Then we went from one co-star to another, different writers, directors, the whole thing.

DH: You grew up on the streets, in a tough neighborhood like they did. How did their story speak to your own experiences?
Wahlberg: There were so many comparisons to my life, my story, my upbringing. I am the youngest of nine kids. My brother was much more successful and was looked at as the chosen one, while I was the one in trouble. I had to play Micky. Dicky was a flashier role, but it wasn’t about that for me. It was about being believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title, and not look like an actor who could maybe box a little bit. Those four and a half years turned out to be the best thing for me, but if somebody had come to me and said, you’re going to have to train that long to make a movie, I’d have said, I’m fairly athletic and willing to work hard; I can do this in six months. Here, I never stopped training, even when I was making other movies.

DH: How helpful was having a genuine Boston guy as producer and star in gaining the trust of a family that obviously didn’t know what was coming when they participated in that documentary High on Crack Street?
Wahlberg: I assured them they would be portrayed in the light they deserved, that I cared about them, and was so proud of what they were able to do, in circumstances like that. That’s the only way I know how to do things. When I was doing The Perfect Storm, and portraying Bobby Shatford, I went to his family, and stayed with them. I wanted them to feel like we were going to protect him.

DH: It’s still a pretty raw portrayal of the family. What was the reaction of Micky and Dicky to the film?
Wahlberg: I showed it to them twice. First time, it was me and David, Christian and a couple other people, at Paramount. I realized how difficult it must be to see your life up there on the big screen, condensed to under two hours and I said, come see it with an audience. We did that in New Jersey and that was an experience. This movie is so down and dirty and real, but it has a lot of humor and emotion, and an amazing payoff at the end. To see the crowd’s reaction, I really felt proud. Micky got it the first time he saw it. For Dicky, it was harder to swallow. The fact is, he blew it. He was able to help his brother but felt like he’d ruined his own opportunity. That’s something that is never easy to fully accept.

DH: It’s easy to see why Matt Damon, Brad Pitt and then Christian Bale would spark to playing Dicky. By comparison, Micky is subtle and understated. Wasn’t there a moment when you thought, ‘I should play Dicky’?
Wahlberg: No. There was always one role for me to play, and that was the champ. I wasn’t giving up the belt. And look, who else was going to play that part and be as believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title? I love so many boxing films. What I wanted to do was to create the most realistic boxing in the movie and look like I could win that title.

DH: Which fight performances inspired you?
Wahlberg: There are so many. Raging Bull is so different than Rocky. Daniel Day-Lewis was very good in a lot of ways in The Boxer. Body and Soul. Robert Ryan, Kirk Douglas. We wanted to make one that was our own, but there was a little bit of the dark side of Raging Bull, and some Rocky. You see Micky Ward in any of his great fights, and they play like Rocky because of his style of fighting. And let’s not forget Hilary Swank. She looked good in there, starting out with no knowledge about a boxing ring. She’d never hit a speed bag, but she had heart and desire. She was fearless and was willing to get out there and go for it. Towards the end, she started looking pretty damn good.

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