The best holds going into the Oscar weekend in the Top 20 at the box office are, as expected, those films nominated for Best Picture. There are two things that traditionally happen at the box office right before the …
Last chance Academy members — and you know who you are.
Voting for the 86th Annual Academy Awards closes today at 5 PM PT, but because of the Academy’s 2-year-old venture into online voting, members who opted in for that option actually have the luxury of time today getting their ballots in. Of course, if you are one of those members who chose the old-fashioned paper ballot and still haven’t voted for this year’s Oscars, you have only one alternative: It must be hand-delivered to the LA offices of PricewaterhouseCoopers at 601 S. Figueroa Street by that 5 PM cutoff.
There are no hard figures on just how many voters wait until the last day, but they are probably the same people seen dropping off their taxes at 11:59 PM on April 15th. I do know of a number of members who waited until this weekend to vote, particularly since this is the first year all 24 categories are open to everyone and the Academy sent out an elaborate 13-disc set of DVDs of Documentary Features, Foreign Language Film nominees and the Shorts. That’s a lot to get through. One consultant told me they estimate that anywhere from 5%-10% of the voters waited until the last 24 hours, even surmising that Monday may have been the single biggest day based on anecdotal evidence and past history. “Several members I spoke with thanked me for reminding them. They had forgotten believe it or not,” this person said. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs and CEO Dawn Hudson have continued to work diligently to turn out the vote. “I voted. We’ve gotten voicemails, emails etc. They are doing a terrific job of making sure everyone does it by the deadline this week and I credit Cheryl for that, ” said one member in an email to me after they finally cast their ballot Sunday.
The Oscar nominated best pictures still in the theaters are holding well the last weekend before the Academy Awards. Most are at the end or nearing the end of their runs. Those distributors who re-released their films or upped the number of theaters post-nomination did receive nice bumps to add to their overall cumes. This is the last weekend before the Academy Awards, so traditionally the Oscar-nominated films still in theaters usually see rock solid numbers as moviegoers venture out to see them before the show. Last year’s Oscars brought in 40.3M viewers. Here is how they all look to play out this weekend and their overall cumes based on Saturday morning estimates:
12). American Hustle (SONY), 903 theaters / 3-day cume: $1.8M / Total cume: $144M+ / Wk 11
14). The Wolf of Wall Street (PAR), 627 theaters / 3-day cume: $1.3M / Total cume: $112.8M / Wk 9
15). Philomena (TWC), theaters / 3-day cume: $1.2M / Total cume: $32.7M / Wk 14
17). Gravity (WB), 348 theaters / 3-day cume: $914K / Total cume: $269.3M / Wk 21
20). 12 Years a Slave (FSL), 349 theaters / 3-day cume: $493K / Total cume: $49M / Wk 19
Warner Bros.’ The Lego Movie will, undoubtedly, take this weekend over newcomers Pompeii from Sony Pictures and the Kevin Costner actioner 3 Days To Kill from Relativity Media. But the interesting thing is that we have four pictures this weekend vying for the No. 2 spot and three of them are from one studio. Sony not only has Pompeii, a love story set against the backdrop of an angry Vesuvius, which one former distribution executive (Jim Amos) calls Cloudy With A Chance Of Lava, but also the holdover MGM title RoboCop and the Kevin Hart-starring comedy About Last Night. This is a testosterone-pumped weekend as not only are the newcomers — 3 Days To Kill and Pompeii — both skewing to various ages up and down the male demo but so is RoboCop. All four pictures at this point in the game are looking to make anywhere from $10M to low teens. Fandango is showing that 42% of ticket sales belong to Lego. (FYI: Pompeii was fully financed by Constantin Films with FilmDistrict providing the marketing and distribution funds).
OSCARS: Harvey Weinstein On His Dark Horse Best Picture Candidate ‘Philomena,’ And, Well, Everything Else
Each year, Harvey Weinstein has taken time out from his Sundance buying frenzies to do an Oscar-season interview that touches on his Academy hopefuls, all the films he bought in Park City, and politics. Well, January’s Sundance couldn’t have been duller — outside of his multiplatform arm RADiUS, The Weinstein Company made zero buys there for the first time in forever — but so much has happened since that we needed a catch-up call to get it all in. Here, Weinstein touches on everything from watching Philomena get the Best Picture Oscar nomination over higher-profile TWC films to Quentin Tarantino’s leaked The Hateful Eight script to his battle with Warner Bros over The Hobbit gross points, to the NRA. And, just as he came out of Toronto with the big acquisition in Can A Song Save Your Life?, Weinstein walked away from Berlin with The Imitation Game, the drama about genius British mathematician Alan Turing, whose work cracking the Nazi Enigma Code made him a bona fide WWII hero but who later was prosecuted for being homosexual, chemically castrated and eventually committed suicide.
DEADLINE: We started this interview at the tail end of Sundance and you uncharacteristically hadn’t bought a single movie. You went right to Berlin and paid a record $7 million for U.S. rights to The Imitation Game. What happened?
WEINSTEIN: One of the things I’ve never been great at is discipline, but we just didn’t feel like there was anything we had to have at Sundance. We decided that, like with Can A Song Save Your Life? at Toronto, we wanted the movie. Imitation Game was a project all of us followed, and those 20 minutes gave that zeitgeist feeling to me, David Glasser, everyone on our team. Negeen Yazdi, who runs our English office, tracked this one so hard that it was like she was trying to break the Enigma Code.
DEADLINE: How hard is it to make such a big commitment based on a 20 minute compilation of scenes?
WEINSTEIN: It was easier in that we all knew the script and could see the level of performance Morten Tyldum got in his first English language film. Alan Turing is not outwardly very sympathetic. He’s brilliant, but the way that Benedict Cumberbatch played him showed us these guys found the right level of vulnerability, genius and the arrogance of the character, too. We felt after reading the script that you could get this wrong, from the tone to the casting. The reason we didn’t make it ourselves was, it felt like a near impossible walk on a tightrope. Morten walked the tightrope. And Keira Knightley is so brilliant in Can A Song Save Your Life and she was helpful and loyal in pushing it our way that we wanted this huge run she is about to have to be with us.
EXCLUSIVE: Alexandre Desplat earned his sixth Academy Award nomination for his lilting score to Philomena, but is the sixth time the charm for this most in-demand of film composers? He’s never won even though his previous nominations generally all came with high profile films including two Best Picture …
The Presidents Day weekend was rather quiet for the Specialty Box Office in a holiday otherwise dominated by Legos. Only one newcomer bothered to report 3-day numbers Sunday, though they were decently solid. China Lion’s Valentine’s offering Beijing Love Story brought out its niche following of audiences who gravitate to China’s big screen features. The film grossed $128K for a $14,222 PTA. “We’re in our core communities and pushing our grassroots outreach there,” China Lion’s Robert Lundberg said this week.
As of early afternoon EST, other Specialty openers including Girl On A Bicycle (Monterey Media), Lucky Bastard (Cavu Pictures) and Jimmy P. (IFC Films) hadn’t reported their numbers. Here’s hoping IFC Films will back Jimmy P., a film that premiered in competition in Cannes and later debuted Stateside at the New York Film Festival. It has had decent reviews, so hopefully it is not simply being dumped by the distributor. Stay tuned…
Related: Box Office: ‘Lego’ Blocks ’80s Remakes In Valentine’s Day/President’s Day Weekend
Among second weekend holdovers, Kino Lorber continued to reap decent numbers for its doc Afternoon Of A Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, which continued its exclusive engagement at the Film Society of Lincoln Center.
UPDATE, 8:14 AM: Philomena might well be the underdog in the Best Picture Oscar race, but its subject continues to make the most of her moment to stump for transparency in unlocking records for the estimated 60,000 forced adoptions of wedlock babies that were supervised by churches in Ireland and the UK. Late last month, she spoke on Capitol Hill. Today, Philomena Lee (played in the film by Judi Dench) the charity Lee launched late last week in Dublin in concert with the ARA. took to the Vatican and met with Pope Francis to urge him to change the system that led to her being separated from her son. As the film depicts, she was repeatedly lied to by the nuns at the abbey where she gave birth, nuns who felt little empathy for a sheltered teen who got pregnant out of wedlock. A print of the movie was delivered to the Vatican to be screened today, though it was unclear whether the Pope will have time to see it. If there was one Pope, though, where this might make a difference, it is Pope Francis, who has exhibited compassion and empathy toward same sex couples, challenging long held institutional bias against them. Harvey Weinstein, by the way, was not among the contingent at the Vatican; he wasn’t involved in setting the meeting. That was done by Lee’s new foundation. Weinstein is en route to Berlin.
As for the film, Philomena will broaden its run to 2500 screens by Valentine’s Day, which, not coincidentally is the day that ballots start being filled out for the Academy Awards. Considering the number of times that Weinstein has been vilified by the church for films that covered subjects like sexual abuse by priests, seeing one of TWC’s films screened at the Vatican is fairly remarkable, even if Weinstein didn’t set it up.
AwardsLine deputy editor Anna Lisa Raya contributed to this story.
Alexandre Desplat, the man behind the music of Best Picture Oscar winners The King’s Speech, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo, is also the talent behind the musical score for Best Picture nominee Philomena. His Oscar-nominated score, melancholy but also incredibly wishful, walks a razor-thin line between the two and works beautifully with a sparkle of hope punctuated with a recurring delicate ding of a percussion instrument, the triangle. The music never dominates a scene, and by making that decision, Desplat gives the story and the actors the respect they deserve. The composer is a master at his craft; he began playing piano at age 5 and later learned other instruments such as the trumpet and flute. With the music of Philomena, Desplat mirrored the emotions of the character — an elderly mother who is haunted by the fact that her son was taken away from her when she was a young woman. She has a fervent hope that she will locate her little boy, now a grown man – but always her little boy – one day.
Judi Dench is nominated for Best Actress this year for her portrayal of Philomena Lee in The Weinstein Company pic directed by Stephen Frears. The actress, who has had a long career in theater, speaks through her eyes as much as in dialogue with her co-star Steve Coogan (who is nominated with Jeff Pope for Best Adapted screenplay). Carrying a deep grief and longing, the mother’s emotions break through her stoicism, giving audiences a peak into her troubled heart. Philomena feels the weight of sin of getting pregnant so young and having an illegitimate baby. With one bow of her head or glance away to hide her tears, Dench has captured the soul of the brave and persistent woman.
Two docs joined the Specialty Box Office ranks this weekend doing OK business in theaters, while holdovers grabbed most of the shine. SPC re-released Tim’s Vermeer after a December qualifying run. The film failed to secure a nomination, but nevertheless bowed fairly well in 4 theaters, grossing almost $58K for a $14,461 PSA. Oscilloscope, meanwhile, opened SXSW ’13 doc 12 O’Clock Boys with less robust theatrical numbers, averaging $2,452 in 21 theaters. The film is also available on demand and the outfit noted it “enjoyed the top performing documentary spot on iTunes throughout the entire weekend.”
Magnolia Pictures once again packaged Oscar-nominated shorts, opening the pack of films in 100 theaters. It has, thankfully, had success in the past with the release and hopefully this year will be no different. Hats off to them for doing so. The shorts grossed $330K for a $3,300 average.
Strand Releasing stuck its neck out with the Cannes Un Certain Regard French-language sexually charged feature Stranger By the Lake. The film opened decently last weekend in two locations and held on in its second round in six theaters, grossing just over $34K for a $5,678 average.
Diane Haithman and Cari Lynn are contributing to Deadline’s Oscar coverage.
On every film there’s someone who doesn’t get as much credit as they deserve. People in the background who fight for the movie, whose insight or work is crucial to the film, whose efforts start the ball rolling. For instance, for Gravity, it was Alfonso Cuaron‘s son (and writing partner, Jonas), who inspired him by saying, “Your films are all right, but you’ve got to get more entertaining,” Cuaron remembered backstage at the Beverly Hilton Hotel after the Golden Globes last Sunday. “It could be more fun. And that was the point of departure to do this film.” Also, if it weren’t for former Warner Bros. president of the Motion Picture Group Jeff Robinov, the film would not have gotten made. It got shoved aside by Universal after Angelina Jolie dropped out and Warner Bros. couldn’t get its co-financiers to step up to the plate. Enter Robinov who was the behind the scenes champion on the film which now has a worldwide gross of $675M. For 12 Years a Slave, it was Steve McQueen‘s wife Bianca Stigter who found the book and alerted her husband who had been wanting to make a film about slavery. Today, we asked some of the nominees who, if anyone, also deserved special recognition. These are some of the responses.
Amy Adams, Best Actress nominee, American Hustle:
“The unsung hero? That’s our Steadicam operator Geoff [Haley] – I’m not even kidding. Because David [O. Russell] works in 360 and you can plan what the shot is but the shot is pretty much what David O. Russell is yelling at the moment. Geoff is running around all day with a Steadicam on and I would look at him and go I don’t know how you’re doing this if I’m barely standing at the end of the day. He was amazing. He’s our dance partner. Any place we moves he’s moving – and sometimes it’s without planning… It’s an amazing thing to watch.”
Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor nominee, Dallas Buyers Club:
The under the radar person that’s not really been brought up out in the light as much as I would have liked is Jean-Marc [Valée], the director. He came out, he’s only been on couple of panels. Mind you was off making another film, which is priority one. But this guy brought the right sensitivity to the anarchy of Ron Woodruff’s story. He saw what it was from the beginning. His ideas for how to approach different scenes were wild but always very human. We know when you read this script, this could be one movies that’s an independent, that’s very important – but is it going to be entertaining? We got away with importance and entertainment. That’s a big coup for a movie like this.
Oscars: Ballots Due In Less Than 48 Hours As Contenders Keep The Campaigns Hot And Voters Try To Keep Pace
The clock is ticking, Academy members.
As the deadline looms for the close of Oscar nomination polls at 5 PM Wednesday, I have talked to a large number of potential voters who are still not even close to seeing the key movies, whether in theaters or making a dent in that pile of screeners at home. A more limited voting pool could lead to a surprising outcome, and this year it seems there are many members struggling to check out all the contenders. Last year then-Academy President Hawk Koch boasted to me on the day of nominations that with the help of the (then-controversial) new online voting system, turnout was the largest in recent Academy history. Hoping not to fall off the pace, new President Cheryl Boone Isaacs has been sending recorded messages urging voters who haven’t marked their ballots yet to get them in before the deadline.
Catch up with Deadline’s best film stories of the week:
Year-End: How A Growing Global Mandate And Franchise Fever Led To Movie Studio Tsuris
By Mike Fleming – Considering that global movie ticket sales reached precedent levels after a particularly robust holiday period and a mostly sizzling summer, 2013 was one of the most turbulent years I can remember in the executive suites of major studios.
Box Office: Nation In Deep Freeze As Ticket Sales Plummet; ‘Frozen’ Still No. 1, Just Shy of $300M; ‘Paranormal’ Audiences Scared While ‘Wolf’ And ‘Hustle’ Close
By Anita Busch – With the nation in a deep freeze, pictures across the board were affected this weekend. And Sunday moviegoing is expected to be down. With more estimates coming in, the odds are that The Wolf of Wall Street will just nudge out American Hustle by a mere $200,000 for the weekend to take the fourth spot.
Year-End: UK Tax Breaks Too Much Of A Good Thing? Tasty Danish Offerings; French Film Biz Blues; Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain
By Nancy Tartaglione – The UK emerged in 2013 as an increasingly attractive location destination with new and expanded tax credits – but can it stand the bulge? Hollywood has cozied up to Britain, not only bringing its films there to shoot, but now its TV programs while it also continues to plumb it as a source of original drama to be remade in the U.S.
WGA Continues Strong Awards Season For ‘Wall Street’, ‘Hustle’, ‘Dallas’ & Woody, But ‘Gravity’, ‘12 Years’ & Coens Not Invited To The Party
By Pete Hammond – It continues to be a good week for American Hustle, The Wolf Of Wall Street, Her, Captain Phillips, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club and Nebraska. All followed up yesterday’s Producers Guild nominations with WGA noms this morning, making it 2-for-2 in the early guild contests of this new year.
OSCARS: From ‘Philomena’ To ‘Saving Mr. Banks’, Composers Show Creativity And Agility With This Year’s Scores
David Mermelstein is an AwardsLine contributor.
This year’s bevy of awards contender films is not only uncharacteristically large but also varied, particularly in how they were scored. The lack of similarity is apparent in everything from genre to instrumentation and even transcends musical matters, touching on the very core of the process. Specifically, when the composer is handpicked to buttress feelings and emotions primarily expressed in visual terms, what is his or working relationship with the director? Several prominent composers spoke about that intimate union, which in some cases was a new collaboration and in others a welcome reteaming.
Alexandre Desplat first worked with Stephen Frears on The Queen in 2006 and gratefully accepted the director’s offer to work on this year’s Philomena, a bittersweet road movie starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan. “The story is intimate and deeply moving, and Stephen thought I could emphasize that,” Desplat says. “The story is such that it’s difficult not to be in tears: This little woman who seems to be lost but is actually ahead of everyone. It was so appealing to me. I came out with the main theme rather quickly.”
Philomena is heading to become one of the most successful independent films winding into awards season this year, and having compiled the box office for four weeks now, I have watched this film — based on true events and starring Judi Dench — steadily climb both domestically and internationally. Curious, I ventured out to see it last night and found a theater almost full to capacity on a Thursday night (the only seats left were a smattering of neck-benders in the front). After the picture ended, the audience erupted into applause. Strong, positive word-of-mouth is why. It was, simply put, a sweet surprise.
“Our exit polls were as high as anything we’ve had, including The Artist and The King’s Speech,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution and home entertainment for The Weinstein Company. Exit polls are showing a very high 85% definite recommend, with 95% ranking it “excellent” or “very good,” and its CinemaScore is an A. After seeing the film, that is not a surprise. But its box office numbers might open readers’ eyes a bit:
Dame Judi Dench is poised to have a very happy new year. She is certainly no stranger to awards, but there could be more in her immediate future. She’s had 6 Oscar nominations and one win as 1998 Supporting Actress for an eight minute role in Shakespeare In Love. There are also 11 Golden Globe nominations and two wins. And then the British superstar can also boast of an astounding 25 BAFTA nominations and 10 wins split between her film and television work — the most recent coming for her final appearance as M opposite James Bond in 2012′s Skyfall. So what does she need another one for?
The fact is she’s back in awards contention in a big way again this season in Philomena, another signature role as Philomena Lee, a true life story of a woman who had to give up her young child for adoption in the Irish orphanage where she worked — only to search for him 50 years later and discover some startling truths along the way. She’s already racked up SAG, Globe and Critics Choice Movie Award nominations for the crowd-pleasing film (which also has a Best Drama Picture bid at the Globes too) and seems a sure thing for another go at the Oscars when nominations are announced January 16th. This would be her fifth nod (in addition to Mrs. Brown, Iris, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Notes On A Scandal) as actress in a leading role , quite a feat for a performer at any age but particularly one who just turned 79 years old earlier this month. A win would make her the second oldest ever (after Driving Miss Daisy’s Jessica Tandy) to nab the Best Actress Oscar.
The weekend had no new specialty anchors and the few niche films that did open, including Phase 4′s The Crash Reel, Magnolia’s Here Comes The Devil and Janus’ Liv & Ingmar, didn’t bother to report numbers Sunday morning. So cheers to Hobbits and Hustlers this holiday season because the new indies passed out. Inside Llewyn Davis was by far last weekend’s big story and by default receives this weekend’s focus. It opened with the year’s 2nd highest PSA at $100,500 in 4 theaters and perhaps not so shockingly finished its second weekend with less celestial figures. The Golden Globes nominee added 11 theaters, grossing a reported $344K in 15 runs for a $22,931 average, bringing its 10 day cume to $897,504.
Delivering the numbers Sunday morning, CBS Films noted: “To be clear, the film had one of the highest limited openings of all time last weekend so a drop was expected. A $20K+ PSA (15 locations) in week two, against significant competition on both the limited and wide release front.” CBS said it felt good about the numbers and expect the film to continue to play well as it expands. Llewyn grossed just under $97K Friday, jumping 45% to almost $141K Saturday. It will head into wider release in January.
The week was jam packed with news leading up to South African icon Nelson Mandela’s funeral. The Weinstein Company bowed Toronto, Mill Valley, Hamptons and AFI Fest Golden Globe feature Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom three weeks ago in a platform release and it has stuck to that strategy.